After 10 years of sitting around dodging all forms of physical activity, I’ve finally unlocked an achievement in a real life sport!
It will come as no surprise to those who know me that I am not a particularly sporty person. Actually, that’s an understatement; I loath sport. Somehow my mind has used this psychological flaw to traduce any form of exercise. Getting sweaty is not for me.
But, I’m getting older and fatter. Although I’m a vegetarian and have a fairly healthy diet, it was becoming clear that wheezing after climbing a few flight of stairs isn’t a viable long term strategy.
I have, at various times, tried going to a gym. The problem is, they’re just so boring. Thunking away on an expensive piece of equipment is dull. It’s too noisy to listen to a podcast and too shaky to read an ebook. I can’t stand being bored – so I stopped going.
I then tried using both the Wii and Kinnect as part of a fitness regime. The results were mixed. With the Wii the games were moderately fun – but the controller is so imprecise that you don’t really know if you’re doing anything right. With the Kinnect the games were really fun – but you need a really large room in order to take advantage of them. And I only have a moderately sized one.
With both, you’re relying on personal discipline to keep yourself active. There’s no penalty for not carrying on. Well, ok, I wasted a couple of hundred quid on an Xbox 360 that I rarely use – but even that is cheaper than going to the gym!
So, hating exercise, lacking personal discipline, unwilling to throw money at a gym. What’s a boy to do?
Then, I remembered… Way back in 1999 when I was studying in Ottawa, I used to practice Jiu Jitsu. Until a short illness knocked me out of commission, I had really enjoyed the study of martial arts. Perhaps that was what I needed.
As it happens, there are quite a few martial arts classes in Woking. I settled on Pil Sung Do. Why? The classes are on when I work from home and the location is a five minute walk from my house. Laziness wins again! I figured if I couldn’t walk half a mile when I’d been sat on my arse all day – there was no hope for me.
So, I went along for a free trial lesson and was hooked!
I don’t know much about martial arts, so I’ll let the website explain what it’s like
Pil Sung Do, meaning “The Art of Certain Victory” is a unique martial art based on modern scientific principles from human anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, neurophysiology and bio-mechanics.
Essentially lots of spinning, twisting, punching, kicking, and breathing. It looks a little like this:
One of the nice things about PSD is that the classes are mixed – in terms of ability, age, gender. So there are plenty of people starting out, and it’s not just angry, sweaty blokes. Children are also welcome which is both hilarious (like having Ewoks unleash their fury on you) and terrifying (how can a kid kick that high?).
I think what appeals to me about learning a martial art is that it’s the antithesis of exercise. Every lesson is just that – a lesson. I feel like I am continually learning. My mind is being stretched as much as my tendons.
I’m not into the quantified self – so I’m not measuring my weight, girth, or anything like that. All I know is that three times a week I’m sweating buckets and feeling like my chest is going to explode. But, crucially, every week I’m doing slightly more than the week before.
My muscles feel stronger – and I can definitely stretch further than I used to. I’m even breathing more. A large part of PSD is breathing correctly – it’s odd having a Grand Master remind you to breathe; surely it’s the most natural thing in the world? But more and more I’m noticing that I’m holding my breath or only taking shallow breath even when exercising vigorously.
Breathing, drinking water, counting in Korean, stretching, learning, thinking, and occasionally punching things Very Hard Indeed. I could get used to this.